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Barton v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 14, 2020


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/02/2018





         EN BANC.

          CARLTON, P.J.

         ¶1. Paul Barton appeals his convictions for possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon. On appeal, Barton is represented by the Indigent Appeals Division of the Office of State Public Defender. In the brief filed by the Office of State Public Defender, Barton argues that his indictment failed to allege an essential element of the crime of possession of a stolen firearm and that the evidence is insufficient to support the jury's verdict. Barton also filed a pro se supplemental brief and asserted that the State inappropriately used the phrase "constructive possession" during Barton's trial and that the cumulative error doctrine requires a reversal of his convictions.

         ¶2. After our review, we find no error. We therefore affirm Barton's convictions and sentences.


         ¶3. Officer Edward Ferrell of the Yazoo County Sheriff's Department testified that on March 1, 2017, he and Officer Cory Freeman received a dispatch and responded to a 911 call from a woman named Doris concerning "a man chasing someone in the yard with a weapon." When they arrived on the scene, Doris informed Officer Ferrell that Barton was chasing her grandson with a weapon. Doris told the officers that Barton had left the scene prior to their arrival, and she described what Barton was wearing.

         ¶4. After the officers spoke with Doris, Officer Freeman left to search for Barton. Officer Freeman soon called Officer Ferrell and alerted him that he had stopped a pick-up truck and that Barton was the passenger. Officer Ferrell responded to the scene and observed Officer Freeman with his weapon drawn and pointed at the driver of the pick-up truck, telling him to put the truck in park. Officer Ferrell identified Robert Donelson as the driver and owner of the truck. According to Officer Ferrell, Barton was in the passenger seat of the truck, and Officer Freeman was yelling at Barton "Quit reaching down!" Officer Freeman informed Officer Ferrell that Barton had a gun, so Officer Ferrell pulled out his weapon and pointed it at Barton. Officer Ferrell testified that Barton began to comply with Officer Freeman's instructions when Barton realized Officer Ferrell had his weapon pointed at him. Barton exited the truck, and Officer Freeman placed handcuffs on him.

         ¶5. Officer Ferrell testified that he and Officer Freeman then went to the passenger side of the truck, opened the door, and discovered a weapon "just laying right there, sticking out up underneath the seat." Officer Ferrell ran the serial number on the weapon and testified that the weapon had been reported stolen.

         ¶6. Officer Freeman testified as follows: upon being dispatched to the scene of the disturbance, the 911 dispatcher informed him that "a Mr. Paul Barton was chasing a child . . . and had a hand gun." The 911 dispatcher informed Officer Freeman that Barton was wearing a white t-shirt and dark colored jeans. Upon arriving at the scene, Doris informed him that Barton had already left the scene. As he was talking to Doris, Officer Freeman observed a white truck drive by and spotted Barton inside of the truck. Officer Freeman "ran and jumped" into his patrol car and caught up with the truck, where he then performed a traffic stop.

         ¶7. As Officer Freeman approached the driver-side window of the truck, he observed Barton, who was in the passenger seat, "trying to conceal something" underneath the seat. Officer Freeman clarified that he could see Donelson's hands at all times. He trained his weapon on Barton and ordered Barton to show his hands, but Barton refused. He testified that Barton eventually complied and raised his hands, but when he did, Officer Freeman "heard something drop . . . [and] hit the bolts on the bottom of the floorboard." (Officer Freeman stated at trial that "it was like a weapon over there.") He ordered Barton and Donelson to exit the vehicle, and he placed Barton in handcuffs. Officer Freeman then opened the door on the passenger side of the truck and found a handgun.

         ¶8. Officer Freeman testified that upon discovering the weapon, he handed it to Officer Ferrell, and the two officers ran the serial number. Dispatch informed the officers "that the handgun was stolen out of Madison[, Mississippi]." Officer Freeman testified that he asked Barton who the weapon belonged to, and Barton denied that it was his weapon.

         ¶9. L.Q. Boyd Jr. testified at trial that he owned the weapon Officer Freeman had discovered. Boyd testified that the gun was stolen, but he did not know who had stolen it. Boyd testified that he did not know Barton and did not give his gun to Barton or let Barton borrow it.

         ¶10. After the State rested, the defense made a motion for a directed verdict and argued the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Barton had a gun in his possession or that Barton knew the gun was stolen. The trial court denied the motion for a directed verdict, explaining that the State "has put forth a prima facie case of constructive possession" of a stolen firearm.

         ¶11. Donelson, the driver of the truck, also testified at trial. Donelson denied seeing Barton with a weapon that day. Donelson stated that he has known Barton for approximately five years and could not recall ever seeing Barton with a gun. Donelson also denied seeing Barton drop a weapon or try to conceal a weapon during the traffic stop. Donelson testified that another man, Main Gainwell, rode in the passenger seat of his truck earlier that same day. However, Donelson stated that he has never seen Gainwell with a gun.

         ¶12. Investigator Terry Gann of the Yazoo County Sheriff's Department testified that he investigated the 911 call from March 1, 2017, and also worked to identify the stolen weapon. Investigator Gann testified that Barton denied any involvement with the gun. Investigator Gann explained at trial that he was unable to locate any fingerprints on the gun, testifying, "You don't find fingerprints on a weapon. You'd luckily get it on a flat smooth surface. There were no ...

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